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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Round Peak?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/158839

tfaux - Posted - 09/27/2009:  09:59:20


I've been listening to and playing old-time music for most of my increasingly long life.
I'm very familiar with Lowe, Creed, Ward, Jarrell, Cockerham, and the rest.
I've seen Tom Collins' videos, read Brad Leftwich's book, and heard MANY B-HangOuters swear by, make pronouncements about, denigrate, and otherwise toss around the notion of "Round Peak" as a single coherent banjo style.

But--forgive my density--I still don't really know what it is, in concrete musical terms. Left hand plucking? Repertoire? Playing in some specific fashion with a fiddler? A melodic style? A non-melodic style? A fretless style? A partially-fretless style?

Will the experts kindly lay out the specifics of this term?


many thanks!
Tom

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/27/2009:  11:21:21


Try watching YouTube videos of Walt Koken, Ken Perlman, Adam Hurt, Cathy Barton, Donald Zepp--none of whom are Round Peak players; then watch the Collins videos again, especially "Breaking Up Christmas." Maybe that will help. One of the problems is that I'm not even close to knowing anything formal about music, as is true of some other players, so it's hard for some of us to speak in "concrete musical terms." I think of Round Peak playing as often, not always, on a fretless, right hand over the fretboard (or scoop for the recent urban players), not melodic, but following the fiddle, slides and alternate-string pull-offs.

Bill


Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/27/2009 11:27:46

mattn - Posted - 09/27/2009:  11:57:23


Here are a few other aspects that I hear: mostly playing in first position (with only a rare note above the 5th fret, like in John Brown's Dream), repeated pull-offs on the same string combined with drop-thumb (like Fred Cockerham on Reuben at http://www.amazon.com/Down-Cider-Mi...76244&sr=8-3), emphasis on the downbeat (like ONE-two-THREE-four) instead of the backbeat (one-TWO-three-FOUR), occasional use of the (unfretted) 5th string on the beat (like Kyle Creed on Darling Nellie Gray: http://www.amazon.com/Darling-Nelli...77576&sr=1-2), Galax lick to get the thumb on the beat to play that 5th string, but only rare brush strokes.

That's what I hear, anyway.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 09/27/2009:  15:15:02


Fred is an unreliable source for the Down beat or Back beat thing. He could do either or could throw in emphasis wherever he wanted. Kyle Creed was very backbeat, as was Tommy Jarrell. All three were backbeat fiddlers until Fred took up his "modern" style which was very downbeat 4/4 and based on Fiddlin Arthur Smith's playing. For that style Fred preferred a 3 finger banjo accompaniment.


http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com
Rocket Science Banjo - Advanced Clawhammer Techniques for beginners and long time players alike. Plus videos and 25-40 EZ Clawhammer Tunes.
& check out "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
banjo brad's great banjo site

Plinkerton - Posted - 09/27/2009:  20:36:52


I saw this the other day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzmb...m=PL&index=3

harvey - Posted - 09/28/2009:  10:25:53


Plinkerton -- those are the Tom Collins videos that Tom and Bill refer to above.

But nice of you to post the link.


Edited by - harvey on 09/28/2009 10:26:45

RaiseTheHatchet - Posted - 09/28/2009:  11:29:51


Are there any round peak tabs online? I'd like to get a feel for playing a tune or 2 to see if I want to pick up the book. The Tom Collins videos peaked my interest.

Dock Jekel - Posted - 09/28/2009:  12:06:41


I was recently suprized to note, that according to Bob Flesher, banjo historian/ player extraordinaire, “Round Peak” style did not even exist until the 1970’s. See “Banjo Heros”, www.drhorsehair.com/

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/28/2009:  13:15:59


Well, I think it existed; it just lacked a name or any following outside the small geographical region where it was played. OTOH, if Flesher's correct, then it should be called "Creed Style," if he was indeed the progenitor. I wonder where the legendary Charlie Lowe played. He was the on who all in the area looked on as the top banjo player.

Bill

FretlessFury - Posted - 09/28/2009:  13:48:43


Hi folks,

If you're on the fence about Brad's book, don't be! Regardless of whether you want to dive into Round Peak clawhammer or not, it's filled with wonderful techniques that you can apply to your own arrangements. The CD is so well done, and played so perfectly that it's easily worth the price of admission alone. His brief history of the Round Peak style is great too.

This is probably going to sound superlative, but I regard it as a great work of American culture. The thoroughness and carefulness that Brad has taken is evident throughout.

Disclaimer: I have no financial ties to Brad. I'm just a huge admirer and regard his Round Peak banjo book as one of the very best books written about the 5 string banjo anywhere!


Tom Collins

---------------

www.newhottimes.com

Elements of Round Peak Banjo videos: http://youtube.com/profile?user=FretlessFury

AndBanjoWasHisNameO - Posted - 09/28/2009:  14:12:23


It really is a great book, and the cd is worthy of playing for pure enjoyment! What I find really interesting is that not only does he give you transcriptions of how so-and-so played, but also his own interpretation of certain tunes. I believe it's "Groundhog" that he gives as his own arrangement to "accompany" Tommy's fiddling. For me, that particular tune really gives you a feel for what Round Peak is...

~Michael

"Well, it's a joke son! Don't you get it?"

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 09/28/2009:  14:59:18


I guess if no one else is going to give a definition, I might as well. Of course I've said it all before.

The Round Peak style is a fiddle/banjo style where the two instruments interweave, each catching ideas form the other and tossing new ideas into the mix. My belief is that you can only speak of Round Peak banjo in relation to the fiddle and vice versa. You can tab out the way Fred Cockerham played a tune but even if there is not fiddle on that track, you have to remember that Fred was a fiddler too, and he knew where the fiddle notes were going to be.

All of the Round Peak greats and near as I can tell all the Galax players too either played both instruments or spent a great deal of time playing with others who filled in the other instrument. The first recording I know of in "Round Peak Style" was made at the Bristol Sessions - the same sessions where Country Music got it's start with the recording of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. At one of those sessions J.P. Nestor played drop thumb clawhammer banjo on Train On The Island and Black Eyed Susie while (name forgotten - I'll fill it in when it pops back into my mind) played fiddle. This is the only professional recording I know of in this style until the 1950s when Wade Ward and Glen Smith played in what was considered to be an archaic style for Folkways records. In the 60s County released the "Clawhammer Banjo" series with more fiddle banjo combinations and in the 70s Ray Alden arrived. By then many of the players had passed - and many of the remaining players were well past their playing prime. Most of what we think of as Round Peak Style comes from a very small sampling of players - with Kyle, Fred and Tommy being the best known.

Personally I think the sampling is too small to seek an underlying banjo style. Fred and Kyle, are the two most notable banjo players and I see little connection in their playing - save for the fact that they each played banjo for the other's fiddling. Even the so called Galax Lick, and the frequent ASPO on the 1st string were part of Buell Kazee's Kentucky Style. Clarence Ashley (from near the Galax/Round Peak area) did the ASPO on the 1st string but either did a uke strum instead of the Galax Lick, or in preference to it - I know of no recording with him playing the GL. Most other players are less recorded. Dix Freeman had a very spare style sort of like Creed's but with less riding the 5th. Charlie Lowe, from the few recordings that exist was an amazing player, and it is easy to think his playing could have and did inspire so many others. If you can call any banjo solo "the best" in the RP style, it woud have to be his "Tater Patch"

It would take a post grad doing ASPO counts and other rhythmic figure analysis to really connect the dots and create a rational (or irrational) Round Peak style of banjo playing, and I'm not sure the rest of us need a true analysis of RP banjo. We know it when we hear it and that's enough.

Remember there were very few recordings of any clawhammer style made before Folkways began exploring the Kentucky, West Virginia area in the 50s. Uncle Dave Macon could probably play anything he wanted to play, but he was the kind of virtuoso who tended to create his styles as he went along - It is impossible to say what he learned fro others and what he made up for himself. So Round Peak may well be the most represented clawhammer style on records.


http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com
Rocket Science Banjo - Advanced Clawhammer Techniques for beginners and long time players alike. Plus videos and 25-40 EZ Clawhammer Tunes.
& check out "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
banjo brad's great banjo site

Dock Jekel - Posted - 09/28/2009:  16:18:17


Hey Tony, Oldwoodchuck. You are definately one of the most knowledgable and articulate BHO'ers. Help me out. Short of asking Bob himself, What do you think Mr. Flesher is getting at when he says... http://www.drhorsehair.com/hero.html

"There was no such thing as the proper "Round Peak Style " then (1969). It didn't exist as far as my study shows, although there are those who will argue . I studied and recorded every banjo picker I could find that weekend. Kyle was the only person who played over the fingerboard and it sure got my attention. No one played the "Round Peak" style then. I know, I was there searching it all out and recording it.

Sounds like lots of different definitions getting tossed about. Your definition has authority. But, I think, so must Bob Flesher's. Maybe Bill Rogers is right when he suggests confusion regarding the Creed Style as synonymous with the "Round Peak Style".


Edited by - Dock Jekel on 09/28/2009 16:29:19

Dock Jekel - Posted - 09/28/2009:  16:36:19


Oldwoodchuck, I re-read your post. I guess you already kind of answered my question, after all. Thanks.

brokenstrings - Posted - 09/28/2009:  17:43:16


I think I'm slightly more confused than before, but it's an interesting discussion.

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 09/28/2009:  21:01:54


Remember that the people who are part of a music scene rarely get to name it. The black New Orleans musicians who created jazz didn't call what they played "Dixieland" and hated the genre's name, which came from a downright amateur all white group called the "Original Dixieland Jazz Band".
The Round Peak and Galax styles were named after most of the people who played it had died.


http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com
Rocket Science Banjo - Advanced Clawhammer Techniques for beginners and long time players alike. Plus videos and 25-40 EZ Clawhammer Tunes.
& check out "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
banjo brad's great banjo site

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/28/2009:  21:38:51


Does anyone know whether Charlie Lowe played over the neck or over the head?

Bill

witty banjo related username - Posted - 09/28/2009:  21:59:55


quote:
Originally posted by oldwoodchuckb



The first recording I know of in "Round Peak Style" was made at the Bristol Sessions - the same sessions where Country Music got it's start with the recording of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers. At one of those sessions J.P. Nestor played drop thumb clawhammer banjo on Train On The Island and Black Eyed Susie while (name forgotten - I'll fill it in when it pops back into my mind) played fiddle. his is the only professional recording I know of in this style until the 1950s.




Don't forget Ben Jarrell (Tommy's dad) and Dacosta Woltz's "John Brown's Dream"

If you ain't right, get right.

RG - Posted - 09/28/2009:  22:56:43


WBRU...good point... and OWC-check out the history of Papa Jack Laine & his "Reliance" bands...he was one of the first to play what later became known as jazz, most likely a couple of years ahead of Buddy Bolden...it is a very simplistic approach to assume that jazz is solely a "black" or African-American musical invention (nothing is created in a vacuum) any more to assume that all OT music is derived from black influence through plantation slaves...the history of the origin's of jazz are a lot more interesting and complex...like "round peak" banjo...lot's of good stuff when you really scratch below the surface of any musical genre...and the ODJB didn't set out to coin the "dixieland" moniker, people just referred to the music as "dixieland" since they were the first band to popularize the music in the north...they were originally billed as a "jass" band...

Sorry if I hi-jacked the thread...
******************************************************
"It's a league game Smokey..."


Edited by - RG on 09/28/2009 22:58:06

janolov - Posted - 09/28/2009:  23:17:53


In David Brody's Bajo Pickers Fake Book from the beginning of the 1980's (?)there are a bunch of RP tunes, tabbed out by Bob Carlin. There the style is called "Galax style", so Round Peak seems to be a newer koncept.

.

Jan-Olov

tfaux - Posted - 09/29/2009:  07:29:22


Many thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

This is how the composite BHO picture of RP looks to me now:

• Most playing is in first position;
• Repeated pull-offs on the same string combined with drop-thumb;
• A close link between fiddle and banjo phrasing, particularly since many of the early 20th c. RP banjo players were also fiddlers;
• Slides, pull-offs, etc. are all fair game, but not strictly melodic renditions;
• Preference--but not a strict one--for fretless banjo;
• K. Creed's tendency to play over the neck has become strongly linked to RP, but is somewhat atypical;
• The notion of a coherent "Round Peak style" is something of a modern, retrospective invention;
• Particular techniques (ASPO, over the neck playing, and the Galax lick) have all been associated with early non-RP players as well, but are perhaps most clearly associated with the style, at least in combination.

Woodchuck's point about the sample being too limited to strictly define a style is a good one. Still, there are recordings that seem to be typical. So maybe rather than a concrete banjo "style," RP was just a loose collection of these approaches that were especially popular among that particular crowd, in that particular charmed historical moment.

Tom



majikgator - Posted - 09/29/2009:  10:38:29


i thought of it a little more loosely, as described by Brad Leftwich myself, not very much multiple string strumming in this style of playing. i think i am going to get the book and have a great appreciation for Brad's banjo playing and he may be the best OT fiddler around (well i know there is no best but he is Great). i have been enjoying Frank Lee's DVD on homespun where he use some techniques associated with the players of the Round Peak area as well as Wade Ward. i really enjoy the less melodic style, sounds more like a banjo.

jk


Edited by - majikgator on 09/29/2009 10:40:29

rinemb - Posted - 09/29/2009:  12:12:54


As a bonofida "Kitchen-Sinker" I think I do a little of this when playing, as well as a little of that. though, I rarely do any brush strokes unless playing solo, or occasionally used in backup when I don't know what else to do. I love that freedom of expression; but there is not any form of old time banjo I do not enjoy listening too, and thoroughly appreciate.

I may never win a contest, but I sure love what I do.

Brad

You may be man enough to take my woman, but you'll never get my banjo.

May not the incidence of success, nor the pretense of retirement-
Lessen the want of enlightenment.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 09/29/2009:  15:08:47


I took a lot from RP but didn't keep most of it. I lost interest in the frequent ASPO on the first string, and tend to have a quiet thumb when "riding the 5th" - Since I mostly do a "constant" thumb on the 5th the notes are cut short and actually never get to ring out fully unless I do a drop thumb. The constant thumb returns to the 5th or another string with the next frail and so any note on the 5th is stopped unless the next note i a drop thumb

I lost my Galax Lick when I had to start wearing a wrist brace. I suppose I could get it back but in general it wouldn't fit well with most of the people I jam with these days. That is beginning to sound like it might just be an excuse. Perhaps I should get to work on it.

The thing I keep is the "Fred Cockerham Slides" I slide up to notes. I slide down to notes. I slide past notes, or bend notes then hit them and release the bend (old rock guitar trick actually). Fred's fingers were constantly on the move and that is the thing I really loved about RP. I don't play fretless although I think I would love a flush fret -- With Herringbone frets and binding! Flush frets would be a lot easier in jams where it is harder to hear myself.

I suspect the term RP style might have come from the late Ray Alden himself as one of the early Fred, Tommy and Kyle fanatics. If you have followed the history of Old Time music recording both commercial and field, you realize what a giant we have lost with Ray's Passing.




http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com
Rocket Science Banjo - Advanced Clawhammer Techniques for beginners and long time players alike. Plus videos and 25-40 EZ Clawhammer Tunes.
& check out "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
banjo brad's great banjo site

Dock Jekel - Posted - 09/29/2009:  17:15:41


Impressive discussion. Nice job with the round peak round-up, Tom, "This is how the composite BHO picture of RP looks to me now:..."


Edited by - Dock Jekel on 09/29/2009 19:45:06

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 09/29/2009:  21:26:48


RG

I'm not one to call jazz an "all black" music, as the Brubeck, and the Gerry Mulligan records in my collectio should attest. And I am fully aware that the guys in the Original Dixieland Jass Band didn't know that they would become the group that essentially named the style for teh next 30 - 50 years. But I think there was a rather racist element in the name of the group, and the record companies at the time (and for a long time afterward) had a desire to use the music without using the musicians. They divided the music into catagories and pidgeonholed everything. There were popular artists and hillbilly artists (that genre was named after a string band called the Hill-Billies) and of course "Race" records which weren't even sold in most white record stores.

I've forgotten who the ODJB recorded for but no doubt RCA, Columbia or Decca did the distribution. They remained the big distributers for decades. It was only after WWII that black music began appearing on "white" labels.

I've forgotten the band name, but one of the better known Kentucky string bands had a black fiddler. For some reason he was out of the room when the group's picture was taken and the band's white manager held the fiddle. Of course the rational for having Deford Bwailey on the Grand Opry was that he was the building's janitor when he didn't happen to be playing in the show. These ugly fictions were created to avoid the "problems" of mixed group. Artie Shaw had to get rid of Billie Holliday because she was treated so badly wherever the band played. At the time Artie Shaw had the most popular swing band in America, and even he couldn't slip her get past Jim Crow.


http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com
Rocket Science Banjo - Advanced Clawhammer Techniques for beginners and long time players alike. Plus videos and 25-40 EZ Clawhammer Tunes.
& check out "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
banjo brad's great banjo site

Armadillo - Posted - 09/30/2009:  18:11:08


Thanks, gentlemen, this has been an interesting thread. Esp. for someone who hasn't been playing that long, and has heard these terms bandied about without quite being sure what exactly they meant.

oldtimer - Posted - 09/30/2009:  20:28:38


If you want to understand Round Peak banjo, just listen to Dix Freeman, Tommy Jarrell (on banjo), and Fred Cockerham. Dix was the best, IMO, but his one cassette is very hard to find. I, personally, don't consider Kyle Creed to be a good example...he played fretted banjo and thus developed a different approach.

Bob Flesher is flat wrong about the time frame. The first County Clawhammer recordings came out in 1965 and featured Fred Cockerham along with good Galax examples by Wade Ward.

Some older revivalists have had strong resentments about the impact of the Round Peak masters and some of them rewrote history to match their opinions.

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey



"Time passes unhindered"

BanjoBach - Posted - 09/30/2009:  22:06:38


Thanks to all ye merry and knowledgable gentlemen. I am a mere novice at best in respect to all things banjo. However, I am extremely interested and am able to learn more than I ever expected from members of this wonderful site. Keep asking questions and healthily debating the answers.

Cheers,
Banjobach

_______________________________________________
I'm a man who is frailing in life.

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